Monday, February 21, 2011


From this...
To this.

We finished our new TV cabinet. And we love it. It fits in the room so much better than the big armoire we had in this spot. We are having a bit of trouble believing that we built it from scratch, but I've got photos to prove that we did. Hidden behind the door on the left is the woofer for our speaker system. I designed this so that it would hold the woofer in the cabinet. One less speaker out on the floor. But in case we eventually decide to have a system installed in the ceiling, we put in peg holes in both cabinet door spaces. All of the shelves are adjustable. I wanted this piece to be as flexible as possible.

Not bad for a few weekends of work and a bit of lumber and trim. Now I think I'm going to go watch a movie. And mull over the next project.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pretty Little Things

It's Saturday morning and I'm sitting in my studio with a mug of tea, attempting to get enough caffeine in my system so I can accomplish all that has to be done today. It's still cold here and there was a sparkling of frost on our cars and on the rooftops this morning. But it's clear it's going to be a very pretty day.

I love being in my studio in the morning. The natural light is beautiful and it makes me want to spend the entire day in here. Preferably while someone else does all the weekend tasks in between bringing me endless cups of tea to me and whatever friends drop by to visit. Unfortunately, that sort of thing happened in a different century.

In the meantime, I have a couple of little things I love to share. First up is the cutest paperclip ever. See:

It's a Mini Cooper paper clip!

This darling little thing came attached to a magazine the Mini Cooper people sent after we bought the Mini. It makes me wonder if the people who work for Mini have these to use on a daily basis. I'd love a little box of them. Do you hear me BMW? You have my address.

Then there are the green glass knobs I bought at Anthropologie this week.

 These are for the cabinet doors on the new TV/media stand we are building. They are perfect for it.

Here's a closer view.

I can't wait to get them on the finished doors. But first I need to finish the doors. Today.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cold Weather Food

Winter has hit Houston with a vengeance. At school today, there was no power thanks to a rolling blackout that caused an issue of some sort that prevented the power from coming back on. It's currently 33 degrees in our backyard and it will probably make it down into the 20s again tonight. Then we've got a winter mix of sleet, snow, and ice almost certainly starting up tomorrow sometime.

I hit the grocery store to grab a couple of extra bundles of firewood and food so that I won't have to stop tomorrow night. Tonight I ended up making something new: a chicken chili that turned out really good. Here's the recipe, such as it is. As is my habit when I'm improvising in the kitchen, I didn't measure anything. So the measurements below are approximations based on my best guess of how much I used.

Chicken Chili

Two pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into one inch chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
Cumin (I probably tossed in a total of 2 or so TBSP. I know I used enough to lightly coat the chicken chunks)
Cilantro (I used about a tsp of dried cilantro)
Approx 1/4 tsp paprika
1 large yellow onion chopped
2 poblano peppers seeded and diced
2 tomatillos diced
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
14 oz can fire roasted TexMex tomatoes and green chilis (I used the Walmart Great Value brand)

For serving:

Mexican rice (I used an Old El Paso microwave package)
Grated cheddar cheese
sliced green onion
sour cream

In a stock pot or dutch oven, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add in the chicken and season with salt, pepper, about half the cumin, cilantro, and paprika. Cook until barely pink on the inside.

Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and add in the onions, peppers, and tomatillos. Add the rest of the cumin and cilantro and cook until nicely soft. Add the chicken back to the pot, making sure to pour the juices from the chicken back into the pot. Add the chicken broth and the can of tomatoes and green chilis. Simmer for about half an hour.

To serve, put a few spoonfuls of rice in the bottom of a bowl, ladle in the chile and top with grated cheddar, green onions, and a dollop of sour cream. My husband also mentioned that some diced avocado would also be good on top and we're going to try that next time around. I will also probably make a vegan version of this for my daughter Sara by substituting seitan and vegetable broth for the chicken and chicken broth.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Making Progress

It's past time for an update on our latest building project: the new TV/media stand. We are very close to finishing the major construction work and starting to paint. It's been a fair amount of fun to see it come together. And I'm still hopeful that the final cost will come in close to or just over $200. Of course, it helps that we've got paint already. Thankfully, I was able to layout a cutting plan for the main pieces that allowed us to get the most out of a single 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" MDF. And it also helped our work schedule that Lowes cut the 4'x8' sheet into 5 18" x 4' tall strips. That left us with only having to do the shorter cuts with our electric saw.

I did do a lot of the cuts with a very fine saw and our little miter box. All of the molding and the pieces for the  the two door frames were cut by hand. I felt I had more control and precision that way. Here's my daughter Emily helping out cutting a door frame. Unfortunately, that was one of the short pieces that I measured wrong, so her effort was for naught.
On the bright side, she still has the skills she learned building robots in high school.

There's been several challenges in this project. Figuring out how to evenly space and drill the holes in the sides for the adjustable shelves was one. I found a plan online for a jig, but it was a failure. What did work beautifully was Larry's idea of using a scrap from the pegboard we had in the garage. Another challenge was applying the molding. I originally thought we'd attach it using the brad nailer that is powered by our air compressor. But I decided against that because after testing it on a couple of sample bits, I decided that I didn't want to risk ruining the molding by a brad not going in all the way. So, Ms. Control Freak grabbed finish nails and attached it the old fashioned way with a hammer. I did luck out in how well the mitered corners came together and I discovered a new use for painter's tape. Holding the molding in place while I attached it.

So what does it look like now? Like this:

I'm very pleased as is Larry. Next up is to do a finish sand (need to sand over where I filled various holes and dings with wood putty), then move on to priming it. Then we'll do the finishing touches like finishing and attaching the cabinet doors and attaching the back. I am planning on painting it white, but am thinking of painting the interior of the center section (where we'll have two shelves for the various electronics attached to the TV) a pale aqua blue. The cabinet doors will get white tulle curtains instead of glass or a solid filler mainly because I want to put the woofer for the stereo in one of the cabinets and I don't want to have to open the door every time we turn on the stereo.

For now, we're on hold as the temperature outside has dropped below freezing and I refuse to bring it into the house to paint. Sometime this weekend it will warm up during the day and I'll be able to paint in the garage. It may not be done by the Super Bowl, but we'll definitely have it finished by our next Sunday Supper in February.